The Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, says he is aware of the significant delays in obtaining speech therapy intervention through Agir earlier. But, according to him, “waiting a year is not that bad” when the child is 18 months old and the parents understand the nature of the services to come.
“The goal is really to do the intervention before starting school,” he said in an interview with The duty. When you arrive with a language delay in kindergarten, you fall behind, you develop behavioral problems, and the following things are well known: dropping out, behavioral problems. The minister points out that he left the CHU Sainte-Justine precisely because he “saw too many patients after starting school”.
Lionel Carmant argues that, thanks to his program, families waiting for speech therapy have access to “group interventions” and receive support from specialized educators. “Before Acting Early, the rule was ‘no diagnosis, no service’, as is still the case in the school system,” he says.
According to him, no one is currently waiting “two years at home without service, without seeing anyone”. “And if so, I would like to know. Of course that is not correct. »
The Minister recalls that Acting Early was launched just a few years ago, in 2019, and that activities were slowed down during the pandemic due to the redeployment of employees elsewhere in the network. “We started from scratch,” he said.
Quebec has created 790 positions for Early Action, of which 170 are occupied by speech therapists. “By adding resources as I would like to do in the next budget, we will continue to reduce our waiting lists,” thinks the minister. According to him, however, caution is required in the posting of new positions in order to “avoid an exodus” of specialized educators, for example, from the Department of Youth Protection to Agir earlier.
Lionel Carmant wants to tackle the rigidity of the program. Currently, toddlers are transferred from one intervention team to another when they are discovered to have an additional problem. They may even find themselves on a waiting list again, according to an employee of Act Early. The Minister has thus required health establishments to set up a single service trajectory this year for children identified by Agir Premier.
Lionel Carmant also wants screening not to be limited to the digital platform. “What we want is even to start working in early childhood centres. The Minister promises that Agir earlier will be well established throughout the province by the end of the current mandate of the government of the Coalition avenir Québec.